William Pitt the ElderWilliam Pitt the Elder, 1st Earl of Chatham (November 15, 1708 - May 11, 1778) was an English politician, born in London, who was the nominal Prime Minister and Lord Privy Seal (1766-68) and Secretary of State for the Southern Department (1756-61). Pitt served during the reign of George II and George III.
After attending Oxford, Pitt entered Parliament, where his opposition to the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, attracted attention. He served as Paymaster General in Henry Pelham's government (May 6, 1746 - November 20, 1755) and, after Pelham's death, the Duke of Newcastle's, before being dismissed for his criticism of the government's war policy. Following Newcastle's resignation in 1756, Pitt entered the Duke of Devonshire's government as Secretary of State, Southern Department (December 4, 1756 - April 6, 1757, and later Leader of the House of Commons June 27, 1757 - October 5, 1761).
After a brief interlude, Pitt was recalled by King George II and became Prime Minister in a coalition government with Newcastle. As wartime Prime Minister Pitt oversaw the defeat of France in India and Canada before his disagreements with King George III led to his resignation in 1761. During his five subsequent years of opposition, Pitt criticized the government's policies towards the American colonies, opposing harsh measures.
Pitt was recalled in 1766 and formed a second coalition government, not nearly successful as the first. Although ostensibly pro-American, Pitt was not for independence and he faced opposition from the Crown and his fellow ministers. Having been previously raised to the peerage as the Earl of Chatham, Pitt resigned in October, 1768. Until his death in 1778 Pitt called for parliamentary reform and the relaxtion of colonial policies.
Pitt's second son, William Pitt the Younger, was a prominent Tory statesman at the end of the 18th century.